Berkeley Unified School District approves budget, accountability plan at last meeting of school year

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The Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, board approved next year’s budget and made recommendations for the Local Control and Accountability Plan, or LCAP, at the board’s Wednesday meeting.

The budget and LCAP were approved by all board members in attendance: Josh Daniels, Ty Alper, Karen Hemphill and Beatriz Levya-Cutler. No changes were made to the budget presented at the June 13 BUSD meeting, which included $96.5 million in revenue and $92.1 million in expenditures.

The LCAP’s approved recommendations included a school welfare and attendance specialist for the African American Success Project, and increased math and mental health support. The plan also allocates money for homeless students’ transportation, clothing and personal hygiene through supplemental funding and federal funds known as Title I.

“I’m extremely concerned about math support,” Hemphill said during the meeting. “My understanding is that there will be very few students identified as receiving … D’s that will be served.”

Of all the BUSD 10th-graders who failed Math I in the ninth grade, 65 percent of them failed the class again the second time, Hemphill also said at the meeting. To continue with the same educational processes, she added, is the “definition of insanity.”

According to BUSD Director of Programs and Special Projects Patricia Saddler, all principals during the June 27 principals’ meeting were interested in a math progress-monitoring tool, which was tested at three BUSD middle schools this year.

“It monitors progress on the California Common Core standards,” Saddler said at the meeting. “We will screen all of our students in September at the end of the first semester and in the spring to look for progress on the standards. We will tailor interventions based on the data we receive from the fall initial screening, and we will push that into the high school.”

Budget cuts of up to $2 million were also approved at the meeting. The Superintendent’s Budget Advisory Committee will create a list that includes where cuts are coming from, but only the board has the power to act on it, according to Josh Daniels.

Hemphill then expressed worry that the uncommitted $2 million in cuts will create unnecessary fear for educational services, leading to an amendment to make cuts to the budget in $500,000 increments.

At the meeting, school board members also discussed how to approach teacher recruitment and retainment amid a hiring scarcity.

BUSD human resources has been working to fill the need for more teachers, bringing back more than 95 percent of the teachers the district had lost, according to BUSD Director of Human Resources Brent Daniels.

“We’re in a situation where hiring teachers at this time is scarce,” said BUSD Assistant Superintendent Evelyn Tamondong-Bradley at the meeting. “We have a freeze in teacher hiring, and it’s hard to get the qualified people.”

Alyssa Bernardino covers city government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @alybernardino.